Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

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Unit Overview


Our coasts and estuaries serve as the highly valued interface between terrestrial and marine environments and are under ever increasing pressure around the globe from a variety of factors. Through developing an understanding of the fundamental processes controlling coastal and estuarine ecosystem dynamics, we can quantify their ability to cope with human stresses. In this unit students examine the natural physical and bio-geochemical processes occurring in wave-exposed coastal environments and tide-driven estuaries. In the first section of the unit, topics include ocean wave properties, spectral wave characteristics, wave generation, linear wave theory, nonlinear wave characteristics, wave transformation, numerical wave models, the dynamics of the wave boundary layer, sediment transport fundamentals, coastline development (cross-shore and alongshore), and natural- and human-induced coastline changes. In the second section, the unit transitions into estuarine environments and topics include physical processes that govern estuarine mixing, followed by detail on bio-geochemical processes that shape water quality, and finally an overview of the importance of aquatic food webs and ecosystem response pathways to anthropogenic disturbance.

6 points

Students are able to (1) demonstrate a knowledge of the core physical and bio-geochemical processes shaping coastal and estuarine environments; (2) understand how to measure and monitor processes operating in coastal environments; and (3) appreciate the link between coastal and estuarine processes and planning and management issues.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) three problem sets (10 per cent each); (2) two field trip reports (17.5 per cent each); and (3) a final project (35 per cent). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Jeffrey Hansen
Unit rules
enrolment in
Master of Environmental Science (72530)
or Master of Hydrogeology (72540)
or Master of Geographic Information Science (71570)
or Bachelor of Science (Honours) (BH004)
Advisable prior study
EART3337 Coastal Environments
or ENSC3502 Physical Oceanography
or ENVT3307 Oceanography
Contact hours
The total workload is 150 hours.
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.